Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Month: April, 2012

Woo Me With Roses and Roast Pigeon

by lyzpfister

It’s not hard to make me fall in love. For those of you who are trying, here are a few tips. Buy me a set of copper saucepans. Preferably from Paris. Preferably antique. Know that I only ever drink cappuccinos, and order them for me when we go out. Bring me gifts of strangely-shaped fruits – like baby pears or blue melons or something with an unpronounceable name in a language neither you nor I can understand. Or, take me on a weekend jaunt to London to eat at St. John’s, and there, ply me with brains and liver, bone marrow, goat’s curd, and other things I’ve never tried.

Oh, St. John’s. Oh, Fergus Henderson. The man who changed my life with a piece of pork belly.

This is my second trip to St. John’s, the first being almost a year ago exactly. And though this isn’t the Smithfield outpost, rather the newer one in Spittlefield, and though there isn’t bone marrow and parsley salad on this menu, I feel both giddy and supremely content at the same time.

I’m here with Ambrice and her parents. We’re sitting at a corner table, getting cozy with a bottle of chardonnay. Our meal comes out in hiccups – cold lamb’s tongue salad with arugula and herb-soaked breadcrumbs, foie gras on toast, cauliflower and chickpea salad dribbled with spicy mustard, goat curd with caramelized onions and mint on giant slabs of bread. We sop up the sauces with freshly baked sourdough crusts.

It’s sitting here that I am reminded, once again, of how lucky I am to have the people in my life that I do, how I can’t wait to see where we go.

Our mains arrive, with another bottle of chardonnay – venison with beetroot and horseradish, calve’s liver with braised onions and crisp potato hash, and finally, the most tender, rare pigeon, split upon a bed of greens and pickled walnuts. Even Ambrice’s mother, who says, I will not eat pigeon, eats pigeon. It is the perfect ending to this meal.

The low, pleasant murmurs of diners around us, the smell of rich sauces and simple, graceful food – this is what a restaurant should be.

So love, when I talk about it, this is what I mean. I mean laughter and lights, a bottle of wine (or two), good people, and food. When I say love, I mean food.

Advertisements

Plans

by lyzpfister

I was thinking, as I rode my bike rather recklessly the other day, about how much we rely upon the reactions of other people. As I sped down the hill at Hallesches Tor, I skimmed past a man weaving his way along. He was whistling, his step in lazed anti-tune to the sound. And I, too, was feeling the spring breeze in Berlin, letting the bike, brakeless, coast. We were close as I passed. I heard his tune; he surely felt my speed ruffle it out of place.

We expect someone in a straight line to continue in a straight line, without thinking that perhaps their plan had been, all along, to veer suddenly to the left. We continue on our way, taking for granted that the other person’s path runs smoothly within our plans. So we plan and we plan and paths snake along in perpendiculars until one day, they don’t. The man on the sidewalk veers to the left. You crash into him on your bike. It wasn’t the plan.

I don’t want to write a metaphor for happenstance. I just want to observe that we are constantly assuming the outcomes of others’ reactions, when those other people are planners themselves, planning our reactions back at us. It’s dangerous to do too much planning at fast speeds. Dangerous not to allow the veer its own possibility of chance.

We are natural planners – and it is good so – otherwise, how would we build cities, invent, bring our creations into being. We plan our lives, our futures, and these things are good. Still, we can plan and plan and plan and still plan a reaction wrong.

We’ll never drive less recklessly down the hill past Hallesches Tor. We’ll always assume the man to the left will walk in a straight line. We’ll plan for him, just as he plans that we’ll drive by. Until one day, we don’t.

Spontaneous Soup

Coarsely chop 5-7 medium carrots, 1/2 sweet potato, and 3 Jerusalem artichokes and set aside. In a soup pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Sautee 1 chopped yellow onion until translucent. Add other chopped vegetables, a pinch of cumin and curry powder, salt, loads of cracked black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook until vegetables are softened. Cover vegetables with water and add 1 bouillon cube. When water reaches a low boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Blend soup either with an immersion blender or by transferring to a blender. Return to pot, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Icon

by lyzpfister

This spoon was a spoon that my grandmother held. She stirred soups with it, melted butter into noodles, nudged vegetables in a pan. All that’s left of it now is the wood that’s worn smooth and what was once a cupped surface that looks as if it’s been licked too many times. The handle is polished with palms and bent, warped from the heat of a skillet. My grandmother has been gone for years. I barely remember her. Although if I close my eyes I can still hear a laugh that I think belonged to her. I have nothing of hers except my name, and that too is shared with my other grandmother. But now I have this spoon. It was probably once longer, and straighter, and more useful to use. And yet, this is how a wooden spoon should be – well worn, paced, serving until it disappears piece by piece into the dishes it stirs, and these hereditary splinters connect us.

The Nontraditional Easteralist or Curried Easter

by lyzpfister

The smell of frying fish and mangoes shocks the apartment as Sigourney drapes slips of catfish into a hot skillet. We’ve dragged ourselves out of bed for the third time today and this time, the effort seems to have paid off. Last night was a late night. An Easter party, whose connection to Easter seemed to veer toward the irreverent and bunny-themed took up the latter part of our night and the majority of the early morning. There was dancing, neon gin and tonic, and an Easter breakfast haloumi sandwich from the still-open or maybe just opened döner place by the train station.

This isn’t usually how I spend Easter. First of all, I’m usually still in bed at six. Secondly, I’m usually not roaming around the streets of Berlin with a pair of lopsided bunny ears haphazardly thrown together from a paper towel roll and some tape. Usually, I’m with my family. I make everyone dye Easter eggs, I cook an Easter feast, we unwrap baskets on Easter morning, and at Easter lunch we smash eggs together like our Bulgarian guests taught us once.

I guess this is what happens when you decide to uproot your life and move across the world and across the ocean. You make new traditions.

So our Easter feast this year is a roast Jamaican fish and mashed potatoes. There’s not an egg in sight. There’s no ham, no quiche, no rack of lamb. Just me and Sigourney and rap music and a roasting fish.

I love having visitors. Showing people around makes you more aware of the positive qualities of the place where you are. When you have to convince someone else they’re having a good time, you often end up having a good time yourself. Even though Berlin has been a bit moody this week (As Sigourney said, as it started to snow, then hail, then be sunny, “This weather is on its period.”), I’ve really loved watching someone else love my city and know that to some extent, I am responsible.

We’ve eaten well, and like all good Berliners, taken as many meals as possible outside, no matter what the weather. We even tried to picnic one day – from the apartment on the fifth floor, the bright sun tricked us into thinking that the weather would be balmy. But as we stepped outside, the sky turned overcast, and even as we walked to the canal, we pulled our jackets closer. We were the only people crazy enough to sit outside, much less picnic. And though our food was delicious – an Asian-inspired noodle salad and grilled chicken, bread, cheese, nutella, and salami – let’s just say we didn’t linger. We walked quickly past the swans, skimming the water and nipping each other, past the line-less ice cream truck, and back up to the warm fifth floor where we had a cup of coffee.

I could think of this Easter fish as just another good meal. But it’s Easter. And I have a tendency toward traditioning. By which I mean, I’m the one who makes us dye Easter eggs every year. I’m the one will never be too old for an Easter basket. I’m the one who insists on making deviled eggs even though no one eats them.

In reality, though, all traditions are tidal. They are broken and created as families shift shapes, through marriages or divorces, children being born, children moving out. Every moment is the possible beginning of a tradition. Which means we should always surround ourselves with people we love and imbue our actions with kindness.

“Happy Easter,” Sigourney and I say to each other, and eat our fish.

Jamaican Strawberry and Pepper Roasted Fish

Preheat the oven to 420ºF. On a baking sheet rubbed with olive oil, arrange a halved pepper lined with strawberry slices. Combine 1 cup mango nectar with chili, paprika, cumin, curry powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Set aside. In olive oil, sauté 1 chopped red onion, 1 tomato, 1 clove garlic, and 4 large chopped strawberries. Sweep the fish (any white fish will do) through the mango sauce and pan fry until lightly browned on both sides. Add about half the sauce and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the skillet. Remove the fish from the skillet and arrange in the peppers. Top with the sautéed vegetables. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Curried Mashed Potatoes

Boil 5-6 peeled, small/medium potatoes until soft. Drain off water and mash hot potatoes with ½ cup milk, 2 tbsp butter, and the other half of the mango sauce.